Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Atheists Invoke Slavery To Challenge The Year of the Bible

I don't think that anyone could reasonably argue that the bible hasn't been used to justify many heinous actions.  Everything from slavery, to war, to rape, to patriarchal abuse of women can be found in it's pages.  It also comes with the promise of reward in the great hereafter, thus encouraging historically marginalized people, to accept their abuse, neglect, or exploitation in this life, in favor of everlasting life in paradise.

Pennsylvania lawmakers recently passed a bill which effectively labelled 2012 as the year of the bible.
The resolution says in part: "The House of Representatives declare(s) 2012 as the "Year of the Bible" in Pennsylvania in recognition of both the formative influence of the Bible on our Commonwealth and nation and our national need to study and apply the teachings of the holy scriptures."[source]
AmericanAtheists.Org were not pleased with this bill and decided display the following billboard.

 
This billboard was placed in Allison Hill, the most diverse neighborhood in the city.

The sign was paid for by two groups -- American Atheists and Pa. Nonbelievers. Organizers said the sign was their way to criticize the state Legislature for making 2012 the "Year of the Bible."


"The message that we want to send, obviously -- slavery is brought to you by the Bible and the House of Representatives," said Ernest Perce V, of the American Atheists.

Perce said the message shows the Bible promotes slavery, and that the state House should not have voted to make 2012 the "Year of the Bible" in Pennsylvania.
Perce has a point in terms of separation of church and state, but the way that his organization chose to express itself is without doubt offensive.  The kind of brutal slavery experienced by the people of the African Diaspora is not something you employ in this fashion. 

Unsurprisingly, the billboard was vandalized. The Pa. Nonbelievers issued the following apology:
"I want to say that I'm truly sorry that many people have misunderstood this billboard. It was never our intention to use 'race' as our message itself -- The point of our billboard was:

The bible is NOT holy or moral as promoted by the Pa. House of Representatives in the 'Year of the Bible.'The bible was used as an excuse for many very bad things, including American slavery.

Pa. Nonbelievers
We would have hoped this message was clearer to observers. In any case, the point is currently moot. The billboard was destroyed by vandals overnight. Attached is an image, submitted by one of our members who discovered it, of the destruction.

The irony of course is that in what they destroyed: they left the bible verse that supports slavery, one of many missed opportunities in the bible for the authors to actually say 'Slavery is bad.' They removed the entire point of the billboard, the criticism, and left the actual ignorant and savage part."
As apologies go, this one was horrible.  He apologized for the fact that others supposedly misunderstood what the billboard said, and in the process completely ignored the fact that many African-Americans found the billboard itself offensive.  Obviously, the concerns of African-Americans are absolutely secondary to this groups desire to fight the year of the bible. The fact that driving by the billboard may have been triggering, or that the billboard amounted to gross appropriation -- pales in comparison to the seriousness of the atheist agenda. No matter how worthy you believe your cause is, invoking an experience outside of your own personal background amounts to appropriation.  It cheapens events like slavery and turns it into a cheap talking point.